Definitions of Genderqueer
Last updated August 15, 2013

I have collected a variety of definitions of “genderqueer” from print and web resources. As one might expect, these definitions do not always agree with each other, nor will you (or I!) necessarily agree with all of the content presented here. The purpose of this collection of definitions is to gain understanding of changing language and meanings over time and divergent understandings of the term. These sources may be useful to facilitate research, personal understanding, or to help explain the concept to others. Some common themes are being outside, between, or rejecting the male/female, man/woman binary. In regards to radical or political interpretation, genderqueer may be described as either consciously political, representing a political possibility by consequence of the meaning of genderqueer identity (not necessarily conscious subversion), or lack of description of political connection at all. Also be aware that some of these sources are scholarly and some are not - depending on what you plan to use any of this content before, please be sure to evaluate the source.

Genderqueer has historically been an umbrella term as well as an individual description - the individual position may be for simplicity (such as instead of a variety of non-binary terms, or less commonly recognized terms than genderqueer) or for specific identification (someone who is not non-binary-identified, but sees, for example, their presentation of gender “queering gender”; they may also see their gender as queer itself). Both individual and umbrella usage is, as of this time of writing, commonplace. The term non-binary is not interchangeable with genderqueer, rather it describes non-binary identities specifically whereas genderqueer covers non-binary as well as a host of other identities. It is also worth noting that non-binary has only gained currency recently; I was not able to find many usages off-line of the term in reference to gender, but will likely gather them here in the future as well. Preference for how you describe yourself or a group of people who you share identity/ies or other gender-related common ground with is up to you.

Deciding who “really” counts as genderqueer is not often a topic covered here, and has dangerous implications of exclusion, although just who genderqueer includes as an umbrella term or individual description has been debated extensively elsewhere and continues to carry on (see Articles section). Rather, Genderqueer Identities intends to bring together a variety of understandings about and experiences of being genderqueer, however that concept is understood, for the goal of gaining a holistic perspective. Know of a book, magazine / journal, or web definition of genderqueer that I should include here? Let me know!
Books with Definitions of “Genderqueer”:
The Culture of Queer: A Tribute to J.B. Harter (2005): “Genderqueer and metrosexual have also entered into the ever-expanding glossary of identity categories. An example of the former would be an individual who does not consider oneself strictly male or female…”

Diversity in Counseling (2010): “Genderqueer (GQ), intergender, and transgenderist apply to both men and women who believe they possess qualities of both genders (or neither gender). They distinguish themselves from binary gender definitions and refuse to be defined medically. They are self-defined. Some genetic women have their breasts removed and then wear tight shirts to display their flat chests. Men grow breasts but otherwise appear masculine. Despite applying to both genders, people assigned female at birth are more likely to identify as genderqueer (Factor & Rothblum, 2008).” (Ed.: One of the most troubling definitions of genderqueer I have encountered, using strong terms like “believe” and “refuse”, using “men” and “women” instead of male and female to describe sex of GQ individuals, and fixating on the “tight shirts” of FAAB genderqueer people.)
Encyclopedia of Gender and Society (2008): “First widely used in the late 1990s, genderqueer is an identity adopted by individuals who characterize themselves as neither female nor male, as both, or as somewhere in between. Although genderqueers describe and express their identities differently and may or may not consider themselves to be transgender (a general term for people whose gender identity or expression differs from the gender assigned to them at birth) they commonly understand themselves in ways that challenge binary constructions of gender and traditional images of transgender individuals.”

Encyclopedia of Women in Today’s World (2011): “The relatively recent introduction of the terms genderqueer, intergender, and genderfuck to demarcate gender identities that fall outside the gender binary problematize easy correlations between sex, gender, and sexuality…”

Ethical Slut (2009): “Genderqueer people - those who choose to live their lives somewhere between the usual gender roles - are softening the boundaries of gender and demonstrating what life without binary gender might look like.”

Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People (2004): “Moving to a third gender requires lots of exploring and trying different combinations, some harmonious blends of both genders, other glaring and provocative declarations of resistance. One experimental genre is called gender-queer, or gender-fuck…Young butch lesbians and young trans men are exploring interesting and appealing new combinations of the masculine and the feminine as full-fledged lifestyles. These new models of gender suggest that a third gender may become more of a real option in coming years.”

The Gay and Lesbian Guide to College Life (2011): “Genderqueer: LGBTQ folk who challenge society’s more rigid definitions of what it means to be male, or even more often, female, often mixing various attributes of all genders and sexualities. Exmaples are femme queen, butch boi, and the usage of non-traditional language for gender, including terms like “hir” or “ze.” (Ed.: This is a particularly impressive definition, acknowledging the use of hir/ze and that genderqueer people may also consider themselves lesbian, gay, bi, trans*, or queer in other ways.)
Gender and Sexual Diversity in Schools: An Introduction (2010): “Genderqueer: Youth and Postmodern Identities: This newer term is one that has emerged in transgender and gender advocacy organizations to further challenge the existing binaries of how we conceptualize and embody gender. As of this writing, this term is not currently listed in any major dictionaries such as The Oxford English Dictionary, The American Heritage Dictionary, and The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, but has been documented online and in print since 2001 (Hart, 2003; Nestle, Howell, & Wilchins, 2002). Genderqueer is an identity that has been embraced by individuals who feel that their gender identity does not fit clearly in the man/woman binary, even if they have undergone some physical transformations to make their body fit more closely within a male or female form.” (Ed.: The earliest use of “genderqueer” that I’ve found so far has actually been by Riki Anne Wilchins in the spring 1995 newsletter of Transexual Menace, In Your Face, see also here, though it is true that use has been rising since approximately 2001.)

Handbook of Social Justice in Education (2009): “Genderqueer: A person who identifies as a gender other than “man” or “woman,” or someone who identifies as neither, both, or some combination thereof.”

Nobody Passes (2006), from Rocko Bulldagger’s piece ‘The End of Genderqueer’: “From Time Out New York, February 3, 2005: “Genderqueer: This umbrella term refers to anyone who doesn’t fit into the traditional binary male-female system-from androdykes to trannyboys.” My own personal definition of genderqueer: (1) A person who is painfully deliberate and consciously political in their gender expression. (2) Someone who identifies with efforts to subvert oppressive power dynamics by undermining traditional gender expectations. (3) A person whose gender presentation is over determined by traditionally gendered signs—somebody who displays excessive femininity or masculinity.”

Mediated Boyhoods: Boys, Teens, and Young Men in Popular Media and Culture (2010): “Neologisms like “heteroflexible" and "pan-sexual" are often collectively grouped under the umbrella category of "genderqueer." In a recent article, Rona Marech provided a useful working definition of the term: "Someone who is ‘genderqueer’…views the gender options as more than just male or female or doesn’t fit into the binary male-female system" (A1). For these individuals, genderqueer is as much a personal identity as it is a political statement, for the term signals an interest-in the words of Wilchins-in "Transcending narrow, outdated, 20th-century gender norms." ("It’s Your Gender Stupid," 2002, 24").” (Ed.: I’ve personally not encountered heteroflexible ever grouped under genderqueer, while pansexual is not the same as genderqueer but is a common sexuality expressed by those who consider themselves genderqueer.)

North American Lexicon of Transgender Terms (2006): “gender queer: 1. A group of people who reject heteronormativity, the traditional two-gender role system. 2. The feeling of being a little of both genders or no gender at all.”

Our Bodies, Ourselves (2011): “genderqueer. Someone who blurs, rejects, or otherwise transgresses gender norms; also used as a term for someone who rejects the two-gender system. Terms used similarly include gender bender, bi-gender, beyond binary, third gender, gender fluid (moving freely between genders), gender outlaw, pan gender……Some genderqueer people don’t identify as male or female, and don’t consider themselves trans, either, because they’re not crossing from one to another but are existing in a third place altogether.” (Ed.: It is interesting to note that Out Bodies, Ourselves also describes pansexual as follows: “Describes someone who is attracted to people across the range of genders. Often used by those who identify as transgender or genderqueer or who are attracted to people who are transgender or genderqueer.”)

The Politics of Sexuality (2000): “Genderqueer transsexualism takes the plasticity of body symbolism the furthest as a radical act of self-definition by publicly denying gender dichotomies”

Serving LGBTIQ Library and Archives Users (2010):  “People who identify as genderqueer or intergender may consider themselves as being both male and female, as being neither male nor female, or as falling completely outside the gender binary. Some genderqueer people see their identity as one of many possible genders other than male or female, while others see genderqueer as an umbrella term that encompasses all of those possible genders. Still others see genderqueer as a third gender to complement the traditional two, while others identify as genderless or agender. Genderqueer people are united by their rejection of the notion that there are only two genders. The term genderqueer can also be used as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity.”

The Transgender Child (2008): “Genderqueer: The term genderqueer represents a blurring of the lines around both gender identity and sexual orientation. Genderqueer people embrace a fluidity of gender expression and sexual orientation. This term is really an adult identifier; it is not typically used in connection with gender identity in preadolescent children.” (Ed.: The political and potentially radically connotations of queer may not be easily associated with children, but to think that a child would not be capable of identifying as neither boy nor girl, or both boy and girl, or as an alternate gender altogether, is troubling. “Non-binary” may be more appropriate here.)

Transgender Explained for Those Who Are Not (2009): “When speaking with someone who identifies as genderqueer: Accept that the person may feel genderless or partially male and partially female; understand that the person may feel totally comfortable being genderqueer and may have no plans to become fully male or female; realize that the person may list sexual orientation as “queer” because “gay” and “straight” are not applicable.” (Ed.: Although terms like queer and pansexual are more common descriptors, orientations will vary and I have encountered plenty of genderqueer people who consider themselves / have strong identification with, for example, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight descriptors.)

Transgender History (2008): “In the early 1990s, some people started to use the word “queer,” which had been a derogatory term for homosexuality, in a positive way. Although it’s now often used as a synonym for gay or lesbian, the people who first reappropriated the term were trying to find a way to talk about their opposition to heterosexual social norms without automatically assuming that meant they were gay; “queer” was less a sexual orientation than it was apolitical one, what the “queer theorists” of the day called being “antiheteronormative"…"queer" is usually associated with sexuality, but from the beginning a vocal minority insisted on the importance of transgender and gender-variant practices for queer politics. Many such people took to calling themselves "genderqueers.” People who use “transgender” to refer only to those kinds of people who want to live in a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth sometimes use “genderqueer” to mean the kinds of people who resist gender norms without “changing sex,” but this is not always the case.”

Transgender Voices: Beyond Women and Men (2009): “Generally the term genderqueer (or queer) refers to people who feel that their gender identity and/or sexual orientation are outside the binary.”

Understanding Transgender Diversity: A Sensible Explanation of Sexual and Gender Identities (2010): “Gender queer adj. See QueerQueer n. Deviation from societal norms for gender and/or sexual behavior. A formerly derogatory slang for the homosexual minority. Queer is an umbrella term of empowerment to many younger gender-variant and sexual-variant sub-groups to mean different, non-conforming, outside the mainstream.”

Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (2007): “…Others may come to see themselves as bigendered (having a mixture of both femininity and masculinity and/or femaleness and maleness), gender-fluid (moving freely between genders), or genderqueer (identifying outside of the male/female gender binary)…while many trans people identify as genderqueer because it helps them make sense of their own experiences of living in a world where their understanding of themselves differs so greatly from the way they are perceived by society, other people identify as genderqueer because, on a purely intellectual level, they question the validity of the binary gender system.”

Magazine and Journal Articles with Definitions of “Genderqueer”:
The Advocate (May 25, 1999): “GENDER QUEER: A controversial term describing anyone considered “queer” because of how he or she expresses sexuality or gender.” (Ed.: An interesting earlier definition due to the assumption of the genderqueer person in question being okay with “he” or “she” by default!)

The Advocate (April 11, 2006): “If bisexuals defy the notion that a person can be attracted to only one gender, gender-queers explode the concept that a person has to be one gender. “People who identify as gender-queer,” says Lydia Sauss, a trainer at the California STD/HIV Prevention Training Center, “are blending and blurring and living outside of gender dichotomies.”

Websites with Definitions of “Genderqueer”: GLBT Teens: What Does it Mean to Be Genderqueer
Anything But Binary: Le Terms
Butchtastic: Beyond the Check-Boxes: Exploring Genderqueer Identity
GENDERpedia the GENDERbook Wiki: Glossary of Terms
Genderqueer Identities: What is “Genderqueer”?
Gender Spectrum: A Word About Words…
Midwest Trans* & Queer Wellness Initiative: GenderQueer and Queer Terms
Queer Dictionary: Genderqueer
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center: Trans Basics: Glossary of Terms
The Social Perception, Attitudes, Mental Simulation Lab: Genderqueer
Transgender Michigan: Genderqueer
Trans What? Glossary of Terms
T-Vox: Genderqueer
University of Michigan: International Spectrum: LGBT Terms and Definitions
Urban Dictionary: Genderqueer
Wikipedia: Genderqueer